The jazz world is in mourning after news that composer and pianist Geri Allen has died. The University of Pittsburgh educator has worked with some of the genre’s notable players, and was herself an influential figure.
Allen, a native of Detroit, celebrated her 60th birthday on June 12. In high school, she was mentored by jazz trumpeter and teacher Marcus Belgrave and took her talents to Howard University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in jazz studies. At the urging of a colleague, Allen pursued a master’s degree in ethnomusicology from the University of Pittsburgh, where she worked as director of its jazz studies department for the past few years.
As a musician and player, Allen’s resume is lengthy and spans the course of three-decades. Artists such as Ron Carter, Charles Lloyd, Mary Wilson and the Supremes, Betty Carter, Ornette Coleman, Esperanza Spalding, and countless others have worked alongside her in some capacity. As a recording artist and bandleader, she recorded well over a dozen albums. As a sidewoman, she’s worked with Mary Lou Williams, John Stubblefied, and the aforementioned Coleman and Carter, along with several others.
Along with Pitt, Allen also taught at Howard University, the New England Conservatory of Music, and the University of Michigan. In 2014, Allen was given an honorary doctorate of music from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and that same year, Congressman John Conyers awarded her the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Jazz Legacy award adding to a list of honors that includes a Guggenheim Fellowship.
According to her management, Allen died from cancer. She is survived by her three children with ex-husband Wallace Roney, her father, and a brother.
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